on June 26, 2013
I suck at video games. I love to play any and all, but I genuinely stink. My husband can't watch me play because it makes him seasick. That being said, this game is phenomenal. It is amazing even for a dreadful player like me. I put it on easy. I put it on auto aim. I still died 387 times throughout the game. I CONTINUED PLAYING! The story line in and of itself makes it almost a necessity to persevere until you figure it out and make it to the next chapter. The story was funny. It was scary. It was heartbreaking. By the end, I was so emotionally exhausted I literally cried. Guess what? I'm starting it again immediately, this time on Easy +. I will keep playing until I make it to Expert. THE STORY AND THE GAME PLAY ARE JUST THAT GOOD.
This is my first game review. I wanted to share my experience because there is no way I am the only crazy person who continues to play games even though they are awful at them, and I wanted to allay any fear of spending $60 on a game that they may not excel at right away. Buy it. The people who made this experience deserve every single penny. I will be at the midnight release of ANY Last of Us prequels or sequels.
on June 15, 2013
I'm not going mince words here. The Last of Us is simply one of the best games I have ever played. It is that simple. The Last of Us is, really, about as good as games get. Don't be scared by the premise; ND has crafted something that reaches far and wide delivering an experience that's akin to a playable drama film. Wash away those horrible memories of The House of the Dead and put your fears away. The Last of Us is simply incredible.
The Last of Us is a tale that takes inspiration from various works in the genre it works with (most notably The Road, No Country For old Men, and The Walking Dead), while forging its own path to create something equally memorable and carving out its own path that sets it apart from all of its inspirations beforehand (certainly feels like it). What may sound like B-movie shlock on paper has been transformed by Naughty Dog into something no short of a masterpiece. While stalwart games like Resident Evil 1 are so horribly done that they make Ed Wood look like George Bernard Shaw, The Last of Us is an instant classic that would rightly belong in the Criterion Collection or right next to an art film. Naughty Dog really outdone themselves, and they have done something entirely else. ND has created something that feel so real and tangible for today's society. Through the epidemic certainly has ravaged the lives of so many people by turning them into horrible creatures, The Last of Us isn't so much a zombie based horror flick as it is a tough, deeply woven drama with the vision that reaches far and wide.
The Last of Us stars Joel and Ellie, two amazing characters who are heart and soul of this journey. What follows these two incredible characters is a journey that will test your limits as it touches upon society as a whole in ways that I myself wasn't even expecting. At it's core, what happens when society collapses? What is the capacity that man would do in order to survive? How far would you go? The Last of Us may seem simple, but it hides under this and explores the implications of society's horrifying ability to crack underneath the pressure. Or on a more simple but wider note: "what it would mean to live in such a world?" What follows is a brutal, but often beautiful, journey that touches upon the lives and delicately explores all the turbulence one would expect when society breaks down from a horrible apocalypse. It's a thematically rich and touching tale, with oceans of subtly and the resulting details that should take far more time to grasp than lightweight fiction would ask of you to do so. Take it all in, appreciate it, read everything that comes to you, and don't be afraid to put all of what you know and would imply during the situations that unfold throughout this extremely long journey. For my money, this is one of the best stories I've ever encountered in the medium.
Visuals and sound are two of the video game medium's greatest strengths, and you can be sure Naughty Dog knows this. Visuals are amazing and absolutely essential to the experience, using the power of the PS3 to make the experience irreversibly absorbing. Sure, the technical aspect of The Last of Us are first rate, but the artistic vision of the game is where it truly shines. The environments are absolutely PACKED with detail, and build a frightfully immerse and believable world. It feels real as you traverse it. Whether it's crawling through a decrepit hotel, a horribly bleak, ruined convenience store, the rancid and dehumanizing quarantine zones, or the serene and calm realm of nature that has overtaken humanity, the world in The Last of Us is telling and a character in itself.Animations, especially facial animations, are also top notch. Facial animation can indeed make or a break a character's emotional resonance (you've might of heard of the uncanny valley), and Naughty Dog makes sure The Last of Us does not break the emotional resonance. Simply put, The Last of Us is a beautiful game, both technically and artistically.
Sound is also amazing as well. The sound track, composed by two time Oscar Winner Gustavo Santaolalla (Babel, Brokeback Mountain), plays a big part in the game's experience. The score is sparse, but is effective in bringing a bleak and beautiful sense of isolation, also not forgetting to puncture the game's most harrowing moments with appropriate menace. At its softer moments, its tinged with a particularly Americana melancholy, which perfectly evokes the kind of western feel one would get reading Blood Meridian's most beautiful moments. Sound Design is also terrific. It makes sure that the entire world comes to life in a dizzying amount of different ways: it makes the violence almost too harrowing, the sound of the zombies horrifying, and makes the space you traverse feel real; an active experience indeed. No matter if you feel sorrow, or dread, happiness or solitude, sound is there to make sure your experience comes to life.
Also, the acting performances are on a whole 'nother level. Troy Baker in particular absolutely needs recognition for his performance, (The intro. My god that intro), but everybody else does a fantastic job. Led by Druckmann's exceptional script, the performances feel so understated, quiet, human. It's often simple and direct delivery unexpectedly leads to depth, getting into the lives of these people and how they relate to the apocalypse, the turbulence of such an event, the fear, the loss, the suffering and brutality of the world around, and beauty and heart in the most unexpected of places. It's pristine delivery, with such delicate crystal clarity and nuance, makes sure every spoken word lingers in the air with such believable weight. No matter how uncomfortable or violently dark, savage, these people get, you still understand them. When these characters speak, you simply feel these human beings within yourself.
As terrific as all of this is, graphics and sound aren't the most important aspect of storytelling. Game play is what completes a video game narrative. Ever since the medium's inception, games have been struggling to properly mesh game play and narrative, especially games with a heavy emphasis on combat. I'm not going to be point fingers at any particular game here(it's really all comes to one's subjective player experience), but there is no doubt games have been hobbled by this design flaw. Luckily, TLOU averts this with absolute skill. The Last of Us made sure that game play didn't become second nature, and as a result it has to be one of the best examples of seamless meld of game play and story in the medium. True to its survival horror roots, The Last of Us has nailed its goal of violence and game play as an art form, and as a result the game is tense, horrifying, brutal, and gritty as a player authored experience.
TLOU is a survival piece. Be of note, this game needs to play on the highest difficulty in order to truly make it a harrowing experience to interact with. Emotionally tax yourself on hard, and once you unlock Survivor mode, bite the bullet and never in turn lax the emotion. With little resources available to you and enemies that can kill you in one or two hits (assuming you're playing on higher difficulties), TLOU is as frightening real as games get. Your best bet, whenever possible, is to avoid combat as much as you can, and cling to your wits in order to make it out alive of any situation. If not, be prepared for some chilling engagement. The Last of Us is horrifically violent, so brutal that the game can really be harrowing in a way that few video games ever hope to achieve. Oh, and you swerve with an almost overwhelming sense of nausea. While some complained about the aiming, I thought it only made the game more nerve racking (it's not impossible to get used to the aiming, either). I think this is a valid complaint for those who aren't willing to deal with it (this aspect, I imagine, will be rather subjective), but it makes sure that the cover based moments still feel dangerous despite being in cover. It's like a playable No Country for Old Men, which is the highest praise I can give this game.
Mechanically, TLOU doesn't feature the complexity of EVE Online, but it opens up well enough as you go through the game. True to its genre, the game rewards exploration and scrounging, and with a variety of supplies, you can craft numerous weapons that help you creatively both offensively and defensively, such as sticky grenades, smoke bombs. Molotov cocktails, shivs, blades on melee weapons, and more. In addition, numerous amounts of upgrades to both your character (through medicine) and your weapons (through upgrades) means that you will adapt and evolve throughout the game. Better health, faster crafting times, less swaying, and many others will enhance the player character; for the weapons, expect better reload times, a few enhancements, the ability hold more ammunition, additional weapon slots (saving your character the agony of having to go through a back pack) and others. Even better, the new game plus mode makes sure that you can play through the game more than once and build upon the arsenal you had in your last game.
While the game's story and presentation, and its merge of game play and narrative, is damn near perfect (or at least close, considering perfection is impossible), I do have to point out some flaws in the game play, mostly due to minor game play lapses (which is typical in most ND games). I found the highest difficulty mode to be challenging without breaking my engagement, but there are some spots in the campaign that felt unbalanced and cheap. Battling against enemies has the weird bullet sponge feel, and it's often annoying when facing soldiers. The annoying fiddliness of the survival horror genre doesn't fully avert The Last of Us (much like System Shock 2), with combat sections that turn the game's balance from "challenging" to "unbalanced". Luckily, this happens very infrequently, and the game is still mechanically satisfying. However, just keep this in mind when you play through The Last of Us, because moments like these will come up.
I'll leave the MP to other people if they want to talk about it. It's great, but you can ignore it altogether like a bonus track because the SP is a masterpiece. All I'm saying is this: believe the hype when it comes to TLOU. The Last of Us is incredible as an experience that Naughty Dog deserves your money for the SP alone. The Last of Us is not only just a superb video game, but it's a brilliant shake up that this industry sorely needs. I remember reading an interview that they wanted to raise the story bar with The Last of Us, and in turn making other developers scramble for cover. This was the end goal Naughty Dog wanted to achieve with this release. Well, I tip my hat to you, Naughty Dog. You've succeeded. The Last of Us is another success for Naughty Dog on a story telling level, and for the medium as a whole. It's a masterpiece, one of the best games of 2013, a game of the generation, and one of the best games I have ever played.
on June 16, 2013
I don't think I've ever played a game that ratcheted the tension so high, for so long, as this amazing storytelling masterpiece. This would make a very intriguing mini-series on cable--it's like a long movie that gets better and better.
If you can, play it on hard difficulty, as that really makes you feel just how hard survival is in The Last Of Us universe; when supplies are just barely enough if you're very careful. Where you must constantly be prepared for anything, think quick on your feet and be ready to make tough decisions and face the consequences. Life here is brutal, and you do what you can to survive. Joy is measured out in brief, sparse instances that pass by in a second and must be savored, because hardship, misery and loss are constants here.
The Last Of Us initially sounds like a variation on zombie apocalyptic stories that are so popular now, but it is so much more, and executed so beautifully that it rises above everything else. The sadness and desolation feel real, and have depth. Unlike most zombie games and movies, here there are long periods of tranquility, when the magnitude and weight of what's happened really sinks in and burrows into your brain, and grips your heart and slowly squeezes. There is loss, and this game makes you feel it. What happens to those who become infected, who become drones? Are their consciences trapped in there? Do they feel sorrow, do they feel the loss of control and loss of life they have suffered? Is the fungus a puppet master controlling their body while their souls watch in horror at what they've become? And what about the living, who lose lovers, family and friends--are the creatures you're fighting now one of these people? Are they mothers, fathers and children? You feel pity for these creatures that you kill--and the Last Of Us makes you feel it.
on June 16, 2013
I just finished this game, and when they say it is an instant classic, they mean it. It is the best game I have played in 23 years of gaming, and the graphics, voice acting, and gameplay are unparalleled. The best $60 I've ever spent in my life.
on June 16, 2013
This is one of the most immerersive game experiences I've ever had. I actually felt as if I had become Joel, trekking through this deadly, near hopeless world, struggling to survive for just one more day. On occasion, this level of immersion is broken (such as when I take out four armed soldiers, and can only salvage ONE rifle round from the lot of them), but for the most part, I truly felt like I had stepped into the shoes of the protagonist. His emotions became mine- the frustration, the elation, the horror, the desperation... and the slow, creeping pall of hopelessness in this dark, damaged earth.
And let me tell you- if you are prone to night terrors or depression, do NOT play this game, because it will alternately terrify you and make you despair for the plight of this lost world. However, if you can handle the mature subjects of the tale, you are in for a real treat, and perhaps the greatest game to ever be produced in the genre of "survival horror". Yes, this game is scary. I generally felt powerless in this world and some of the enemies (primarily Clickers and Runners) make my stomach tighten with dread. If you're super hardcore, and you want a REALLY scary experience, I recommend you play on Hard difficulty for your first play-through, because the number of supplies (ammo, med kits, shivs, bombs, etc.) that are available on the Normal difficulty level are far too abundant for players who want a supreme challenge.
On the subject of crafting, this is a component of the game that is easy to learn, and fun to engage in. It further puts you into the mindset of Joel, a man desperate for survival, who has learned to salvage at all available opportunities. Slowly tuning up my weapons was also a lot of fun, though Joel is but a pale imitator compared to his rival protagonists (Nathan Drake, Marcus Fenix, etc.) in other games (but this is a good thing, for it feels realistic, and fits with the tone of the piece). Joel's wobbly aim, perpetual shortage of ammo, and rather sluggish speed make him feel like a real, middle-aged guy who has learned to survive in a dangerous world, not some superhuman who handles everything with grace.
The stealth aspect is also handled brilliantly, and engaging in it is extremely satisfying. To me, this stealth system is a perfect evolution of that which was established in the Metal Gear Solid series (particularly #2), utilizing a great visual cone and (and audio circumference) for your enemies, which must be studied for vulnerabilities and exploited at every possible opportunity. Determining how to approach each new challenge (lots of trial and error will be involved), and how to successfully clear an area of enemies (generally without being detected, as ammo and health are so limited) is really fun. These challenges become "3D puzzles" in a way, as you must use your noggin to break down enemy patterns and AI reactions, with the added tension of knowing that it only takes one slip-up to result in failure - and these enemies really do make you feel the fear.
Visually speaking, this game can't keep up with the Uncharted series (surprising, since it's the only other game built on the same engine), but it's by no means a slouch. Just be prepared- this game is nothing at all like Uncharted. It's way harder, the game isn't split into short, easily managed levels, and the cheerfulness of Uncharted is completely absent. I play Uncharted all the time, but I'm not sure I can go back and play The Last of Us- it is, quite frankly, an exhausting experience. And that, my friends, is the sign of a superbly crafted game, one which has captured the emotions and tone that it was seeking to tell with its mature, finely told story. All fans of video games should at least sample The Last of Us. I couldn't stop playing it until the last steps of Joel's journey were complete, and I'm betting you won't be able to, either.
on June 16, 2013
I like Naughty Dog, a lot. They seem to be the only developers to understand that the gaming world does not only comprise of teenagers and hardcore gamers, and that the gaming audience is much broader - often people like me who take time out from our usual lives to get the best entertainment possible whether it be movies, concerts, sports or video games. It is unfortunate that the term 'gamers' has become associated with a minority of people who find time to comment/criticize each gaming thread, article and video out there and apparently have time to spend 50+ hours on each game and play it multiple times. Most people I know who play video games do not have time to play every game that comes out. Most of us don't even finish all games we start. So it is critical for Game Developers to keep in mind that they are not only competing against other games, but also other forms of entertainment. This also includes plethora of mobile and tablet games (although I'm not a big fan). Naughty Dog seems to get this. I stayed home for majority of this weekend (a very nice summer weekend) playing The Last of Us and I really think it was the best possible thing I could have done.
Having played Uncharted 2 & 3 (which I will refer to a few times), I had high expectations from Naughty Dog and was waiting to play The Last of Us for some time now. So I pre-ordered it here. When I started the game on Friday and couldn't put my controller down for next 3 hours, I knew that I was going to spend the weekend on the couch.
The Last of us is a mature gamer's dream come true. In my early teens I used to spend a lot more time playing video games than I do now but in few years I got tired of the typical 'formula games' - run, jump, duck, shoot, usually coupled with a very superficial story - you are the protagonist who some how saves the day or the future. And even though previousl Naughty Dog games, like Uncharted, did stick to the same formula, they just did everything so well that it didn't feel out of place at any point. The last of us takes it to the next level. I can definitely say that I haven't played any game in my life that will linger in my memory longer than The last of us. It's a lesson to other gaming developers out there; lesson that you don't have to stick to a formula to make a great game, that you can dare to be different and still be brilliant. This game may not appeal to trigger fingers or people who want to dwell inside a game forever, but to the rest of us this was the miracle that gaming industry was missing.
I will go over some aspects of the game now:
1. Graphics 10/10: The best you will find in PS3. Very similar to uncharted 3, perhaps a little better. As opposed to uncharted, there are a lot of dark areas in the game which reduce the visibility. I think it adds to the overall atmosphere of the game. Naughty Dog seems to have found their way when it comes to motion/performance capturing. The cut scenes are some of the best you will find in any video game.
2. Sound 10/10: Some of the best you will find in any game. Again, it goes along really nicely with the theme of the game. I would say overall the score in the game is minimalist which fits perfectly. The voice actings are superb just like with Uncharted.
3. Gameplay 10/10: The gameplay complements the plot extremely well. I know some people have complaints here but any other style of gameplay like platform puzzle style in uncharted or run and gun would have contradicted the theme of the game. Everything you do in the game feels realistic and never undermines the plot of the game. It doesn't let you forget that you are in a bleak world and that the future is uncertain. Very mature game design, kudos to Naughty Dog for daring to be original.
4. Plot 10/10: The plot is the heart and soul of The Last of Us. I won't get into details because there are countless reviews and discussions online which you can find easily and read through but nothing you read is going to prepare you for the experience. I will say this though. The Last of Us will touch you in a way that perhaps no game has before. It will have a lasting impression. There will be times when you put your controller down and take a moment to swallow what just happened. The game is very, very emotional. And after you finish it, you will be glad that you played it.
Overall 10/10. Some stories are best conveyed through books, some through songs, some through videos. The last of us is a story that's best conveyed through playing it and I don't think it could have been any better any other way. This is the kind of leap that I want to see other developers take - to convey their art, their imagination and ideas through gaming and not just make games based on previously established formulas. This game is a must play game for PS3 owners and perhaps the last great game on PS3. I would even go as far as saying that it's worth buying a PS3 for, even in its dying stages (used maybe or wait to see if they release this on ps4), just to play this game (in fact all Naughty Dog games). Is it for everyone? Perhaps not. But you probably know by now if this game is for you or not. You won't be disappointed!
on June 15, 2013
Naughty Dog's "The Last of Us" is one of those games that is best characterized as a must-have, system defining exclusive. If you have a PS3, you should own this game. If you don't have a PS3, you should be buying one for this game. It is simply that dang good.
This game uses the graphics engine Naughty Dog perfected with their Uncharted series. This means at no point will you be let down when it comes to amazing scenery and visuals while you play. The Last of Us (TLoU for now on in this review) is some of the best graphically that you will ever see on a current-gen console. The lighting, "god rays," colors, and details are consistently top-notch in the single player story.
The sound and music are fantastic. The music sets the mood brilliantly, guns sound powerful, infected sound frightening and instill the sense of dread, and the voice acting is so believable it is nearly uncanny. You WILL ultimately find yourself caring for these characters.
Other reviewers have posted mild spoilers regarding the first 15-ish minutes of the game, and their reactions are spot-on. It is a powerful intro that makes you feel a plethora of emotion. Ultimately giving you the perfect insight into Joel, the grizzled character you control. It will easily remain as one of those gaming moments I will always remember.
Thankfully the game doesn't let you down after that amazing opening act. From that point on, the tension roller coaster peaks and falls until you finally just have to take a break to gather your senses. It is exhilarating for a game to make you feel so much from a story.
The combat in this game is initially cumbersome, but you quickly adapt to it. It is similar to Uncharted, but feels a bit more clumsy, possibly to make it less arcadey. Ultimately though, you may learn sometimes the best course of action is to sneak by the threat rather than engage. Honestly I had never cared much for stealth games (I run and gun in nearly everything I play,) but I find myself taking some form of stealth option or route most of the time unless it looks like there is no better recourse. Don't get me wrong, once you have the hang of fighting in this game, combat is A LOT of fun also. It is just with the limited bullets and durability of your melee weapons, it makes stealth the smarter choice in most scenarios. Tip of advice, don't waste too many shivs on killing!
The crafting is a fun way of managing your resources, and encourages searching every nook and cranny of this beautiful post-apocalyptic world Naughty Dog created. I actually found myself getting frustrated at opening cabinets or lockers and not finding some sort of goodie (not like in Bioshock, where you'll find something every few feet. But scavenging in TLoU is obviously the more realistic scenario.)
A downside is the game does suffer from some long loading times when you initially start it up, but there is no problem after that for the remainder of your play-through. It is hardly enough to dock any stars for. There was a day-1 bug regarding the autosave, but that has since been fixed. I still manually save at random points just to be on the safe side (like if I do something stupid and want to revert to an old save to avoid it.)
This game does continue the Naughty Dog tradition of long, beautiful cutscenes in between spurts of gameplay. You will be watching as much as you are playing. I find this makes the story more fulfilling (and gives you that moment to catch your breath,) but be forewarned if this is something that may bother you.
I bought this game specifically for the single player, and at $60, it was completely worth it. There is a multiplayer facet of the TLoU, but I haven't tried it yet. I played the story on Hard, but at non-crescendo events that still felt a bit on the easy side. I will update my review after I have given the multiplayer a fair chance.
**** MULTIPLAYER UPDATE ****
The multiplayer of TLoU is, at its core, a flavor of Team Deathmatch. There is a respawn mode ("Supply Raid") and a single-life-per-round mode ("Survivors".) Even though it is "only" team deathmatch, it is really well done and quite fun to play. It doesn't feel like a cheesy slap-on gamemode like many developers throw into their single player games to help milk out DLC. It requires a great deal of strategy and skill. The team with teamwork and cooperation will win, if you "lone-wolf" you will die, and your team will more than likely suffer a lost round if you are playing for yourself. It utilizes many of the great features found in the singleplayer, such as item crafting, scavenging, and stealth.
Multiplayer has a meta-game where the better or worse you do affects your personal camp of survivors. As you play better in the TDM gametypes, the number of survivors in your camp grows. You keep them healthy by collecting dropped supplies in the matches from kills and by other means. That said, if you don't play well your camp of survivors begins to die off. It doesn't do anything to change your match gameplay, it is just a good motivator which drives you to try to play better (and makes you work toward corresponding trophies dealing with the number of survivors you have at Day 40.)
When you first start the multiplayer, you join one of the two warring factions and stay as that faction until after the 40 day time frame (40 matches - each match is a day) or you kill off all your camp survivors from incompetency. After that you can then choose to play as the other faction if you wish. The factions are both equal in abilities, their difference is just visual.
The game utilizes "boosters and upgrades" similar to the Uncharted series. You don't need to use them to be competitive in matches, but they do help out. They consist of such abilities as faster healing, less rifle sway, and knowing when you are spotted by the enemy.
All in all, you should own this game. Do what it takes, and get The Last of Us... you wont regret it.
on October 3, 2013
"A man's at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with. He can know his heart, but he don't want to. Rightly so. Best not to look in there."
- Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
I finished playing Naughty Dog's 2013 release The Last Of Us at around 8 PM Wednesday night. It was raining when I finished, much like it had been raining for the majority of the game's 18 hour run time. Summertime in Georgia, and all. Rain is a factor. Upon completing the game, I powered down my PS3, turned off the television, set the controller on the TV stand, and sat with my chin on my hand for about half an hour watching the storm outside. I realized that I wanted to write about The Last Of Us, not so much in a quick review form as much a longer journal entry, or a Meditation, or maybe just an honest thank you note to the creators over at Naughty Dog in the event that someone from their team stumbles across these words. Whatever this piece ends up being, I present it to you here.
I will do my best to treat The Last Of Us as its own entity, but the fact of the matter is simple - The Last Of Us is the culmination of the last ten years of storytelling, and I just can't talk about it intelligently without addressing other stories scattered throughout various mediums that came before it. Therefore, in the words of Captain Renault from my favorite film of all time, "Round up the usual suspects." This article will be lengthy. Forgive me. I reckon I've just got a lot to say.
1 - Reflections: It wasn't too terribly long ago that I finished up another equally anticipated game called Bioshock Infinite, and though it's wildly unfair to compare the two in any regard, comparisons are unavoidable. Yes, Bioshock Infinite was my shoe in for Game of the Year. No, it's not anymore. Yes, The Last Of Us won the sort of unspoken bout between the two games. No, I don't love Bioshock Infinite any less. It was a great game. The Last Of Us, however, is not a game. The Last Of Us is a revelation.
Gamers have been crying for years about the growing levels of maturity and artistic merit to be found in video games, demanding that the medium of "game" be treated with the same level of respect as film, television, or the written word. I for one have cautiously agreed with them, though our argument has often been hindered by large titles such as Saints Row, Call of Duty, and even the deceptively clever Grand Theft Auto series. Those are the names that the non-gaming community thinks of, and it's a shame that the quiet, beautiful games never cross the public psyche. Guns, sex, violence - that's what gaming means to everyone who has never played, say, Flower.
Every gamer, however, can think of a slew of titles that pushed the respectability of gaming as a medium to new heights, simply because we know that the games touched us on deeply emotional levels in ways that are usually reserved for the "serious" arts. Some of mine, for instance, include the Mass Effect trilogy, the Bioshock canon (Ken Levine's babies only, go away, thou ill-advised sequel), Shadow of the Colossus, some of the earlier Final Fantasy games, Fire Emblem, Max Payne 3, Heavy Rain, Journey and a truly unforgettable Western called Red Dead Redemption.
Here, however, at last we arrive at The Last Of Us, a mysterious title that arrived on Father's Day at the eve of next-gen of gaming's grand entrance. Even before I played it, I knew we were in for something special. The trailers, while scarce, were intense. The reviews for it were exultant. Too exultant, perhaps. Some no doubt go into this game and are disappointed by it, simply because they expect the sky to break open and rubies to tumble out like hail. I don't know. I went into this game expecting a 10/10. What I got was a seventeen hour interactive experience with a story as good as most books. I'm not sure what to call an experience like that. I'm really not.
Echoes of Children of Men, The Road, 28 Days Later and No Country For Old Men can all be found wandering the forlorn hallways and abandoned city streets of The Last Of Us. I mention The Road referring specifically to the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Cormac McCarthy because I felt on more than one occasion while playing that The Last Of Us was the tribute that The Road deserved. It's a pity there's a lackluster film adaptation that got all the credit for it, but lackluster things often garner the credit for masterpieces. The good news, though, is that The Last Of Us is a far better homage to the post-apocalyptic genre that The Road more or less pioneered than any other story I've yet seen - and that all comes down to the story it tells.
2 - Story: I've read in a few forums a few naysayers who negatively compare the story in The Last Of Us to the story in Walking Dead, saying that the latter has a better story. The only thing I can really say to that is that I politely - and if you push me, perhaps not so politely - disagree. Walking Dead is a clever cartoon series that we can interact with, awkwardly at best, with characters who each neatly fit into pigeonholed zombie stereotypes. The Last Of Us, on the other hand, never quite falls back on clichés of the genre while fulfilling all expectations of that genre in its own capacity. What genre that is, specifically, I will address in a moment.
Blistering. Harrowing. Horrifying. Unforgettable. Beautiful. Heartbreaking. Heartwarming. Hopeless. Resilient. Courageous. Cowardly. Despicable. Heroic. Anti-heroic. Ambiguous. Loving. Cold. Gentle. Brutal. Terrifying. Tense. Here are the words I scribbled down on a notepad while I played, wondering how I could possibly string together a series of coherent thoughts in a manner which would well represent the experience that had warranted them. I realized, in the end, that simply putting the list out there for readers to see was probably the best representation of the experience as a whole I could offer.
Without spoiling anything directly, I ought to warn interested players who are setting out into the world of The Last Of Us for the first time that this is not a game for children, and frankly, may be a hard one to swallow for some adults. Some folks might balk when I say it's not for children, or that it's a rough ride, since most games these days seem to fit that pedigree. What I'm saying, though, is if you have children, you may want to make sure they're not in the room when you do play, as the story never shies away from extremely visceral violence and extremely unsettling subject matter - and I'm not talking about the zombie-monster-murder, which holds its own as being surprisingly frightening. In short, do yourself a favor and don't play this game with children in the room. An empty room will add to the atmosphere and the experience, and come mid-game, the story will move into territory that I very highly doubt you'll want your little ones privy to.
I've spoken with others who have played this game, and in general it's a rule that you can't play through the game without crying or at least choking up. It depends on your life experiences, I suppose, but I can guarantee you that you will be upset playing through. (If you're not upset...well, I guess I don't want to know you.) It's not a "fun" game, not in any sense of the word - combat can be exhilarating, sure, but it's the fact that I came to care about the characters that gave me the will to actually finish playing. I had to turn it off at one point and spend a night collecting myself before I could finish it up. The subject matter The Last Of Us addresses will no doubt upset - possibly even offend - some players, regardless of age. There isn't an option to "turn off mature content" because Naughty Dog seems to understand that the entire experience is mature content. Don't play this game if you'd turn off mature content in a game. It's just not the experience for you.
The story follows a middle aged man named Joel and a fourteen year old girl named Ellie as they travel through a post-apocalyptic America and meet various characters along the way, all in pursuit of a group of freedom fighters known as the Fireflies. If that's all you know, then let's go ahead and keep it that way. Sure, there are elements of the tale that you'll find familiar (loved ones turning infected, to kill or not to kill, et cetera) but you will undoubtedly be surprised by the bits that you aren't expecting. I wouldn't dream of spoiling that, not here, but suffice it to say that there's never been a more mature story in any game, anywhere, and certainly not one quite so well realized and brought to the screen.
The biggest misrepresentation of this game would be to label it as a zombie game. It's very much not a zombie game, and is instead a post-apocalyptic story, in the same vein as The Road or I Am Legend. (I'm talking about the novel and novella here, respectively.) The story isn't about the monsters - in fact, they often form the backdrop to this world. It's a nasty backdrop, sure, and the monsters are sufficiently disgusting and horrifying (you'll learn to hate the appearance of spores, for instance. Hate, with a capital H) but the fact remains that the interesting bit isn't the monsters so much as it is the world the monsters resulted in.
Veterans of The Road, I Am Legend or even The Walking Dead will find the story a little less shocking than those who have not yet explored the post-apocalyptic genre. I maintain, however, that The Last Of Us will surprise even the most hardened of post-apocalyptic readers/watchers, if only because we've come to expect games to adhere to certain rules. The Last Of Us doesn't approach the genre like a game. It approaches it like a film, and it really, really shows.
3 - Gameplay: The gameplay in The Last Of Us is pretty remarkable. Some have (in a desperate attempt to find flaw) talked down the quality of gameplay, saying it brings nothing new to the table. I guess I just have to disagree again, though if there's any place The Last Of Us doesn't punt expectation out the window it might be found in the actual game-part of the game. I don't want to misrepresent my feelings by this admission, however, so let me be clear - the gameplay is fantastic.
Killing is never fun in this gray and gritty world, but there's something furiously satisfying about watching Joel strangle people you have serious beef with. A guns blazing approach, while always a fun fallback plan in other gaming experiences, is here a complete waste of time and to be avoided at all costs. To say that The Last Of Us' greatest quality is its realism sounds off-putting, but there you have it. When I say realism, I mean that a set of four Infected always manages to be more intimidating than an entire game of Call of Duty. Not once throughout the game did I think it was easy, though once you start learning the ins and outs of sneaking around your chances of not dying quite so much go up exponentially. This never makes the game feel rote or boring, though. It just makes you think that the character you're piloting is a total hardass.
Some have a big issue with the steep learning curve early on in the game, but I appreciated it. It reminded me of Demon's Souls, the PS3 cult-classic which revived the notion of games that didn't hold your hand. The closest you get to a tutorial in The Last Of Us is a level that deftly gets the story moving and introduces you to Joel, the anti-hero you'll be piloting for most of the game's duration. Your first real fight with Infected is terrifying, in large part because you have no idea what you're doing. It's frustrating, too, because you'll probably die a multitude of times. It took me a good thirty minutes to defeat my first batch of Infected. Some folks take issue with that. I absolutely loved it.
My reasoning is simple. Infected wouldn't wait for you to learn. They wouldn't take it easy on you. These Infected don't take it easy on you, either. They're the same Infected you'll be fighting in the last chapters of the game, just as vicious, just as relentless and you will be punished just as harshly when you screw up. My best advice? Treat Joel like he's a fifty something year old man who has to fight six monsters. Pretend you're in his shoes. Realize the odds are stacked against you. Pretend the game isn't a game, it's a hopeless world and everyone (and everything) is out to kill you. Now, give it a whirl.
The crafting system and weapon system are some of my favorite things I've ever encountered with a game. Ammo is scarce, weapons of opportunity (planks of wood, steel pipes, maybe a hatchet if you're lucky) are preferable, stealth is best. Always strangle your opponents, or stab them in the neck. Good luck aiming a revolver at someone who's charging you full speed and you're trying to walk sideways. Good luck hitting a damn thing when you're out of breath and your heartbeat's pounding and Infected are screaming down the halls. Good luck taking out a room of Infected or armored soldiers with a revolver that holds six rounds and takes a realistically long time to reload. I appreciated the inaccuracy of the weapons, and I appreciated that fist fight brawls were just that - fist fight brawls. They were nasty, brutal, dirty, and you will feel every single hit.
I also greatly appreciated the lack of QuickTime events. They were here, sure - it is a PS3 exclusive, after all - but they were few and far between, and they rarely took me out of the game for more than a moment. The game seems to have a very firm belief that when you're in control - you're in control, and when it's in control - it's in control. Traditional QuickTime events are few, and frankly, all of them except one or two feel very memorable. The most upsetting scene in the game, in fact, is a QuickTime sequence. I hardly noticed that I was mashing the triangle button. I was too busy sobbing.
4 - Presentation: The opening sequence of this game will tell you everything you need to know about it. If you arrive at the title and you are unimpressed, or unmoved, or indifferent, please do me a favor and put down the controller. Go play Borderlands 2, Black Ops 2 or Battlefield 3. The Last Of Us is, at the end of the day, an emotional knockout that derives all of its power from the story it tells and the manner in which it tells it. It is in no way shallow or hokey, and every issue examined feels raw and nervy.
The real surprises here are the cut scenes - the first big one being the lead up to the titular screen - which feel like they came straight out of a film. I've never seen a game that so seamlessly integrates gameplay and cut scenes - loading screens are cleverly hidden from view, and the story rarely blinks. Every second that matters is accounted for, and when you skip a gap of time it's for a reason. Scenes never feel like video game cut scenes, they feel like snippets from Band of Brothers, No Country for Old Men or 28 Days Later. Some part of that can be attributed to the motion capture, but to be brutally honest, the motion capture wasn't what wowed me. What wowed me was the game's willingness to linger.
For all its gruesome violence and loud moments, The Last Of Us really shines when it's quiet. Fortunately for us, a surprising amount of the game is very quiet. The vast majority of the game is spent wandering through empty spaces, scavenging around for much needed supplies and listening to fascinating conversations between Joel and Ellie. We learn the most about them, who they are, and how they perceive each other through these interactions. The option to speak with Ellie presents itself at various moments while exploring abandoned cities. Always take advantage of these options. You won't regret it when the game reaches it's highly ambiguous and controversial denouement.
A word here about the soundtrack. The soundtrack is, quite simply put, the best soundtrack I've heard in a game. Unlike Jeremy Soule's spectacular soundtrack for Skyrim that successfully stood on its own, Gustavo Santaolalla's soundtrack for The Last Of Us focuses on the emotional core of the story to truly astonishing effect. Those familiar with Santaolalla will recognize his work from films such as Babel, Brokeback Mountain and The Motorcycle Diaries. Listening to the soundtrack from The Last Of Us without the game to accompany it is an ambient experience, but it's nothing when compared to seeing how the music works in the context of the game itself. Santaolalla has won two Oscars for his music, (Babel and Brokeback Mountain) and were The Last Of Us a possible candidate for an Academy Award, I would be surprised if his work here didn't make the cut.
The cinematography seems to subscribe to the same doctrine as Santaolalla's music. The cut scenes generally focus on conversations in lieu of focusing on the action, which startled me. It's a risky move for a game to spend its narrative moments focusing on subject matter that could easily feel boring or forced, especially since cut scenes are inherently taxing on a player's patience. When it comes to The Last Of Us, however, the cut scenes are film quality. They never feel intrusive, and are in fact something I came to look forward to as the game progressed. I grew to be very excited whenever the game slipped into an automated sequence, because I knew that a plot point was coming, or a twist, or a beautifully filmed moment, and perhaps most importantly, I knew it was going to look, sound and feel incredible.
This leads me to the acting jobs by Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson. It was interesting watching Troy Baker in The Last Of Us, since I wondered if I'd be able to shake Booker DeWitt from my mind as I tried to fit the voice into the role of Joel. Amazingly, Baker knocks it out of the park as Joel, showing genuine acting chops (not just voice acting, as he altered between being absolutely heartbreaking to absolutely terrifying in his motion capture sequences) and helped create a character as resonant and haunting in my personal canon as Ahab himself. Ashley Johnson was spot on as Ellie, slipping into a fourteen year old persona with a knack that was as startling as it was refreshing, and handled the more edgy subject matter with a gravitas both heartbreaking and inspiring. Ellie comprises the heart of this tale, and you'll find at game's end that it's her story more than his. I loved these characters for their flaws - I loved them because they were just so damn human. This brings me to the last segment of my discussion - the idea of being human.
5 - Denoument, Controversy and Impact: Without going into too many spoilers, I feel the need to mention the growing controversy surrounding this game. It's not a bad controversy, more of a moral argument that's gathering champions to both its sides. I'd discuss the argument, the controversy, and the philosophical rabbit hole it leads us down at greater length, but I don't know that this is the place to do it. (There are a couple really well written articles discussing two very different viewpoints on the issue you can read over at Forbes, as well as a highly interesting discussion/debate over at IGN, though be warned there be spoilers everywhere in both locations, links can be found at the end of the article). Suffice it to say that I found myself distinctly undecided at game's end about how I perceived Joel and the decisions he made, not to mention whether the game was optimistic or pessimistic about the human condition.
Simply put, the ideas presented in The Last Of Us warrant serious discussion. They're actually important ideas, and they're actually pretty tricky. The answers aren't forthcoming, and the game takes its place in my roster as sort of the dark and dismal retort to The Wrath of Khan and the perceptions of heroism and "rightness" that a Vulcan named Spock championed there. I've debated at length with at least one other person so far about the ideas the game asks at the end, and to me that's absolutely astonishing. For a game to force you to think - really think - and immediately question your life, how you judge right and wrong, what you would do in a similar scenario and to do so through as a medium previously relegated to the entertainment bin by highbrow society...well, that's just remarkable.
The Last Of Us is the finale to a great generation of gaming, and it's a promise that what comes next is likely going to be the revelation we've all been waiting for. I grew up reading, watching films and going over to my neighbor's house to play video games. Long John Silver, Matthias the Mouse, Artax the horse, and Link are all equally weighted gems in my childhood imagination. Later in life I met Atticus Finch and John Sheppard, and finally the Man and Joel. There's always been a quiet sort of embarrassment when it comes to the Links, the Arthas', the Icos and the Cortanas. It's sad that this is the case, but it's true.
I have been of the firm - albeit quiet - opinion that gaming can (and should, and now has) become a medium through which we can tell truly great stories, stories on the same level of sophistication and artistic merit as any book or film. I think it's unfortunate that everyone knows Romeo and Juliet, but not everyone knows Tidus and Yune - that everyone knows The Man With No Name but not John Marston - that everyone knows Harry Potter but not Ash Ketchum. I for one have deep affection for all the names I just listed, and it saddens me that so many great stories and characters are hidden from the world purview simply because they are generally overshadowed by bigger, far more lackluster titles.
Is The Last Of Us comparable to Paradise Lost, Casablanca, Ulysses, The Godfather, Moby Dick or The Tempest? No. Of course not. But neither was The Road, and that won a Pulitzer Prize. The Last Of Us is comparable to The Road. Where is the Pulitzer or Oscar equivalent award for a game which hits just as hard, just as earnestly, and was in many ways harder to create? The fact is that when I finished The Last Of Us, my experience with the game was only just beginning. It made me wonder about what it meant to be human, what being human demanded, and perhaps most importantly, where the humanity ends and the monsters begin. The Last Of Us is a great meditation on the difference between surviving and living. Survival is a natural instinct, but at what cost? What will we have once we begin living again, and we look back at what we did in order to survive? Will we be able to live with ourselves? Is happiness even a possibility at this point? The Last Of Us offers bleakly little in the way of answers. The question, though, is remarkable.
Stephen King once wrote that every fantasy story written since Tolkien was in some way just another author trying desperately to bring Sam and Frodo back from the Shire. Perhaps he was right, perhaps he wasn't. Along the same lines of thinking, maybe the reason why video games haven't been treated as an earnest art form is that every single one since Pong has been trying to recreate the addictive exhilaration that came from successfully bouncing that white spot off the paddle. If that is indeed the case, the greatest achievement The Last Of Us can lay claim to is that it at last stepped away from a set of unspoken rules, and it did so bravely, efficiently and well. The Last Of Us indicates that it's time for serious storytellers to explore a new medium, one now officially full of enormous promise and truly exciting possibilities. If this is a glimpse of the Next Generation, then it is a bright future indeed - and not just for "gamers," but for us all.
The Bottom Line: Blistering, terrifying, courageous and unforgettable, The Last Of Us is the best game I have ever played, and infinitely more important, is one of the most profoundly moving experiences I have had while interacting with a story in any medium. A true masterpiece, in every sense of the word.
Overall Score: 10/10
on June 18, 2013
There are plenty of more in depth reviews you can read if you would like. Just reading some of the reviews, both positive and negative, I thought there was a need to just lay it out for those on the fence in fairly simple terms. If your only idea of having fun with a video game is to shoot as many things as possible in as little time as possible and you want finely tuned mechanics so you can get as many headshots as possible...THIS IS NOT THE GAME FOR YOU! If, however, you enjoy in depth stories, character development, and realistic gameplay (you're just an average man trying to survive, shooting someone is intense and not extremely easy and you want to stay quiet so you will most likely strangle more enemies than shoot) you are in for a treat.
THE PARAGRAPH BELOW IS COMMENTING ON ONE SINGULAR ISSUE SOME NEGATIVE REVIEWS HAVE MENTIONED:
I also saw someone who was bothered by the fact that enemies don't notice your computer controlled partners...Naughty Dog has actualy explained this. It is extremely difficult to make perfect AI (Artificial Intelligence). At some point you were bound to get noticed because your computer controlled partner was not hiding as well as they should leading you into a dangerous situation and possibly screwing up your game (you have limited resources so the last thing you want to happen is for your partner to force you into a situation where you need to use a lot of them). To avoid this Naughty Dog decided to have enemy AI completely ignore the presence of your partner if you are in "stealth mode." In other words, if you're sneaking around the enemies can't see your partner, if you are running around shooting everyone the enemies will notice and attack your partner. This avoids any issues with trying to create perfect AI and allows you to play the game however you want without the potential of your partner ruining it for you.
on June 14, 2013
Just to be clear, I am not a gamer so-to-speak and I'll do my best to review this without any spoilers.
The first ten minutes of this game were the most emotional and intense that I've seen in a game in a long time. My mouth dropped open after the first real cut scene/story arc of your life before the rampant infection that has plagued your city. Superbly acted and sets the story up perfectly.
Graphics are intense and the capturing of human emotions with enhanced detail really shines through in this game. Very realistic with the lead guy resembling Drake from Uncharted in my opinion. All voices and acting are top notch and pro. I can't really over empathize that the graphics combined with the intelligent design of the enemies and emotional storyline really made this an exciting game to keep going back to.
Storyline is better than any Walking Dead type of thing that I've personally seen. The main object of the game is to escort a little girl across an infected city that is quarantined by a virus outbreak which infects most people still living. Naughty Dog did a superb job of making it believable and as realistic as they could and the story really makes you care about the little girl and your other female companion as you make your way through the city via streets, tunnels and buildings.
Enemies are very intelligent with each one doing and noticing different things. For instance, one you may have to use stealth to creep up on and snap his neck. Another one won't go down with bullets so you have to make a shive to stab it with. Others are better dispatched with bricks or wooden planks. Every little noise and rustle you make could spell disaster and I had fun trying to determine what will work on whom.
Weapons: I've seen different types of guns, bricks, wood planks, etc but hand to hand combat is not uncommon and you have to figure out how to ration your sparse pickings of things to slaughter people with. And perhaps combat may not be needed at all with some quick thinking.
There is a "fight or flight" decision you have to make most times. Certain battles have you safer just running away instead of picking fights with the undead. Mostly, you need to make smart decision making in each scenario it is definitely no button-masher where you just blindly bash away hoping to get out of it somehow. I don't want to make it sound like you can just run away at all times and be able to keep going....each different enemy faction after you be it human or undead has a different way to be dealt with to clear that level.
It is somewhat comparable slightly to Uncharted in the aspect of you are constantly looking around for supplies. You can get health kits (where it takes a few seconds to mend yourself), cans of food, items to gather individually that help you assemble moltov cocktails and other things for one time use. The screen gives you a little circle icon to show there is something to inspect , then as you move closer you use the triangle to obtain the item. Check every room, every nook and cranny for things because ammo and health is hard to come by.
For some gamers they might not be thrilled at the fact that this game seems to be 40% movie/cut scenes and 60% game play. The storyline gets heavy with lots of sitting back and watching right from the start and I can see certain people craving for more interaction and actual gameplay. Everything is so well acted and beautiful graphically to look at that I had no problem with this. The cut scenes are thrilling and dramatic.
Health gets diminished quickly and since you are usually in survival/travelling mode it really takes a keen eye to try and power back up whenever you can . You need a few seconds to yourself to heal as well so don't expect to do it in the middle of a gang style fight. Only when things get mellow again can you patch yourself up.
The biggest thing that ticked me off is that if another character started talking and you happened to not be by them, walked away from them, or they keep moving....that dialogue is gone forever and you are not sure what just transpired.
Just like health, real ammo for guns is few and far between. you really need to enter a survival mode and make quick decisions about using your gun or using the environment or your fists to subdue the undead.(authors note - I agree with the comments that this should actually be in the Pro (not con) area since it actually does create more excitement and problem solving throughout the game)
I enjoy my dual shock controller but there doesn't seem to be much action in there as far as "feeling" the environment through shakes and tremors of the Dualshock. Just using your buttons as you would any old controller with the Last of Us and there was tons of opportunity to get the dualshock more involved.
Load times seems to take a bit initially, even the meter that shows you progress is measured out in in four digit increments (for instance your load up might go from a 56.56 all the way to 56.89 slowly as you watch it)! But I'm guessing the engine to run all this must be huge so I guess I can't complain too much about that.
If you have any specific questions I'll be happy to try and answer them otherwise I hope this review was helpful somehow with out me giving away too many secrets of the game. Overall I think this game is fabulous to play, tons of fun to watch being played, is a great addition to the survival-horror post-apocolyptic type of genre with tons of emotion with groundbreaking graphics and a story with heart. Lots of killing the undead and finding sneaky passages to manipulate your way through the city while collecting health and ammo. Anyone who enjoys action packed games that are more filled with thought provoking actions rather than button mashing solutions should really get a kick out of laying this.
There are no rip-offs or copying other games outright as another reviewer has mentioned in my opinion. 100% action out of the box with graphics detail and gameplay like I've never experienced before. I hope you have as much fun playing it as I did.
UPDATE - upon finishing the game this is the hands-down best game I have ever played. Such emotion, such depth, masterful storytelling and an ending that packs such a punch you will be left thinking about it for days. The different weapons to cycle through reminded me vaguely of the original Bioshock game where you have a bunch of different types of weapons to upgrade and repair. Joel's hand-to-hand fighting is superb and the use of different melee weapons is an absolute joy to watch. The game does have swearing throughout and no sexual situations. Tons of blood and violence with a genuinely creepy and quiet soundtrack against realistic scenery. Never have I felt such vested interest in my characters and the plot actually reminded me of the novel "the Road" by Cormac McCarthy in a lot of ways. 5 stars for sure I will be stunned if this does not hands down win GOTY. This game sets a new standard and bar for games to judged as serious works of art.